Staying Put – Peer support at home

By Sue McDermott, Programme Manager

Over 50-year-olds will very soon make up more than 50% of the population here in Torbay, making them the biggest and most valuable resource we have.

And yet, so often the over 50’s are viewed as ‘needy’, dependent or in need of social care, but that simply is not true.

At Ageing Well Torbay we have found that over 50’s in the main want to be a part of the solution, not the problem and they want their wealth of knowledge and life-long gained skills to be put to good use.

That goes hand in hand with the desire to stay in their own homes as they age, remaining as independent as possible for as long as possible and Ageing Well along with its delivery partners have now risen to that challenge.

Allowing someone to stay in their own home for longer will, for many, mean additional support, but it may be something as simple as help with changing a light bulb, hang up new curtains, turning a mattress or just putting out the bins.  Additionally, someone may need a bit of help around the garden or indoors moving furniture or clearing out lofts and attics – all relatively simple tasks whilst you are fit and healthy, but less so as your mobility declines.

It’s often the simplicity and size of job which is part of the problem –  either jobs are too small or not appropriate for a skilled tradesman, or which when charged at a normal call out rate combined with an hourly rate, make a minor jobs expensive.

However, tailoring a scheme to meet those needs on a voluntary basis has taken some doing as many believe that being neighbourly is complicated or fraught with difficulty.  It used to be commonplace within our communities, but somewhere along the line it went out of fashion, and kind acts have gradually become viewed with unwarranted suspicion.

The good news is you don’t need insurance or a CRB check to call on your neighbour, (think back to how we helped each other last year in the unexpected snow).   It is much more likely that your visit will be greeted with gratitude rather than accusations of being nosey. We want to get back to communities looking out for their own, and for the help needed to be fulfilled by someone on the doorstep or at least nearby.

With that in mind, Ageing Well has been working with local organisations to create a ‘Staying Put’ service that will listen to people’s needs and seek to find solutions among their own community.

It might start with a simple phone call via a freephone number to someone (a real person) who will work out what is needed before putting them in touch with a suitable person from a bank of trained volunteers, someone with the necessary skills.

There will be help with low level DIY and maintenance, support with cooking, either learning for the first time or recreating family favourites, navigators to advise what health and social care services are available and to help access them, advocates to make sure people’s voices are heard in decisions.

There will be a myriad of ways people over 50 can be involved and give their time and skills to others – not just as a traditional volunteer but also more flexible ways including one-off or ad hoc volunteering, ‘give and take’ through established community timebanks or even helping informally through neighbourly giving.   Now we have the support of local organisations and a structure, we will soon be promoting Staying Put and encouraging as many people as possible to come forward and share their skills to support others.  They will provide the expertise, knowledge and skills and we will provide the training, supervision, support and travel expenses.

We are not looking for people to take on massive tasks, those will remain with the professionals, but even the smallest of jobs done well could change someone’s life, allowing them to remain in their own home and neighbourhood for as long as they wish to.

The final details are still being ironed out, but as soon as it is up and running we will be publicising the scheme across the bay with a telephone number for both volunteers and people who need jobs done.

In the meantime, for more details or to register your interest in this fantastic, potentially life-changing Staying Put scheme please contact Jess Slade 01803 212638 or email her: